Acambis joins fight against terror attacks


Efforts are being stepped up by a Cambridge company to make a new smallpox vaccine ordered by the US Government as a precaution against bioterrorism.

Acambis, in Fulbourn Road, won the contract last September, but in the firm's interim report, just published, it says major efforts are under way to complete the project.

The company is also reactivating its manufacturing plant in the US so it can make the new vaccine in large quantities.

Dr John Brown, Acambis boss, says: 'We are applying our world-leading experience with live vaccines to develop a smallpox vaccine as an anti-bioterrorism measure under a contract with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

'A major effort is underway on this contract, with around one-fifth of our research and development staff currently committed to the project, all of which is fully funded by the CDC.'

The contract is worth half a billion dollars, more than 300 million.

Acambis (formerly known as Peptide Therapeutics) is also working on further projects for America, including the development of a vaccine to prevent diarrhoea, in particular for military personnel travelling abroad.

Not so long ago the company was seriously strapped for cash and was targeted for a takeover by Cantab, which was subsequently taken over itself, by Xenova.

This was shortly after Acambis had received a massive shot in the arm from US pharma giant Baxter.

Acambis, which had just under 20 million cash to spend following the six months ended June 30, and has substantial tranches of funding to come, is working on a broad portfolio of vaccines.

The company announced it had successfully completed advanced trials on its vaccine against Japanese encephalitis, a life-threatening disease that affects tens of thousands of people every year.

It also announced the discovery of a vaccine to prevent West Nile disease in humans. Another killer, this disease also decimated the bird population of New York in the 1990s.